Richard Sherman gets to the heart of the Colin Kaepernick situation

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While fans may hate Colin Kaepernick because he didn’t stand for the national anthem in 2016, the NFL has shunned him for a fundamentally different reason. Indeed, plenty of other players didn’t stand for the anthem during the 2016 season, and most of them remain gainfully employed.

They remain gainfully employed because none of them became the name and face of the movement. Kaepernick did, and he’s the one paying for it with his career.

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has become the highest-profile player to recognize this hiding-in-plain-sight reality, in comments to Jarrett Bell of USA Today.

“What is it about?” Sherman said. “It’s not about football or color. It’s about, ‘Boy, stay in your place.’”

Bingo.

“Not a lot of guys are willing to step out there,” Sherman added. “So the guys not speaking up for him are doing him a disservice. There should be a lot more guys saying something. Most guys are like, ‘I don’t want my job to end up the same way.'”

Sherman told Bell that Kaepernick would have been a great fit in Seattle, but the Seahawks decided not to sign him. At least the Seahawks didn’t engage in an awkward, clumsy, slow-motion crowdsourcing exercise aimed at determining whether fans and sponsors would revolt before deciding whether to offer him a job.

“For you to say you have to check with sponsors and fans because this guy took a knee and made a statement?” Sherman said regarding the Ravens’ apparently ongoing deliberations. “Now if you told me this guy threw eight pick-sixes last year and played like a bum, had no talent, that’s one thing. But Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett or whoever is playing for the Jets right now — whoever is starting for the Jets is terrible — have jobs. You’re telling me fans would rather you lose and put a worse player out there because a guy took a stand? That’s where it’s so troublesome to me. . . .

Blake Bortles has shown you enough to where you don’t think Kaep would be a solid fit? Kaep has won games.”

Yes he has. He has nearly won a championship. But team personnel throughout the league have been feeding “football only” nonsense to willing members of the media who pass it along happily to the public because they either don’t like what Kaepernick did or they hope to curry favor with their sources.

For months, the “football only” narrative had prevailed. Baltimore’s decision to be somewhat transparent unwittingly has exposed what’s really happening.

The owners want players to realize that they don’t own the fields, the stadiums, the uniforms, the logos. The teams possess and power the platform, and they choose to let the players occupy it. They’re not going to let players occupy it who step out of line in a way that both triggers criticism from the public and prompts other players to follow suit.

That was Kaepernick’s biggest sin, in the eyes of the vast majority of the league: He did something that caused other players to become aware of their rights, and to act on them.

Everything else that’s been said about Kaepernick is excuse-making and window dressing, no different from the Commissioner dealing with CTE concerns by essentially saying “yeah, but pro football players live longer than those of you who don’t bash your brains into broth.” Some of us see through it. Some of us don’t. Plenty of us don’t really want to.

Kordell Stewart repeats Ray Lewis’ advice to Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick
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Former NFL quarterback Kordell Stewart offered Colin Kaepernick similar advice Ray Lewis did a day earlier: Keep quiet about social activism.

“Right now he’s not giving himself a chance,” Stewart said, via NFL No Huddle on TuneIn with Brian Webber. “I don’t think it’s the owners; I think it’s more or less Colin Kaepernick in my mind. Stay off of social media, and when it comes to the political side of everything, you can express yourself, you can do it quietly. I mean people are looking for former athletes and athletes out there doing some things that can be headline news. Do it from a charitable standpoint. Stay low-key about it. You don’t have to be so [loud], especially in this world of politics in the game of football.

“You see what’s taking place with him right now. He’s not even getting a chance to play and he’s better than 90 percent plus of the backups playing in the National Football League, let alone some starters that are playing right now.”

The Ravens still are deciding whether to sign Kapernick, having consulted with Lewis among others. Lewis posted a video on Twitter on Tuesday, giving Kapernick advice.

“The football field is our sanctuary,” Lewis said. “If you do nothing else, young man, get back on the football field and let your play speak for itself. And what you do off the field, don’t let too many people know, because they gonna judge you anyway, no matter what you do, no matter if it’s good or bad.”

At the moment, Kapernick doesn’t have a choice whether to get back on the football field as no one has been willing to sign him.

Ravens dispute ESPN report regarding Colin Kaepernick, sort of

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For the Ravens, the process of determining how big of a distraction Colin Kaepernick would be has officially become a distraction.

In response to a report from Diana Russini of ESPN suggesting that coach John Harbaugh and G.M. Ozzie Newsome want to sign Kaepernick but that owner Steve Bisciotti is resisting the move, the team has issued a statement. The statement, however, doesn’t directly dispute the report.

“We are going through a process, and we have not made a decision,” G.M. Ozzie Newsome said in the statement. “Steve Bisciotti has not told us we cannot sign Colin Kaepernick, nor has he blocked the move. Whoever is making those claims is wrong.”

No one is making the specific claim that Bisciotti has told Harbaugh and Newsome that they can’t sign Kaepernick, or that Bisciotti otherwise blocked the move. The claim is that Bisciotti is resisting it.

The term “resistance” implies a lack of finality. The statement from Newsome expressly confirms a lack of finality.

Again, Russini was at training camp on Tuesday, and she interviewed Harbaugh on camera. She came away from the experience (and/or acquired information thereafter) that made her comfortable enough with the situation to declare, unequivocally, that Bisciotti is resisting the move. The fact that he hasn’t slammed the door doesn’t mean he’s not tapping the brakes.

A cynic may say that this entire escapade — from the leak of resistance to the statement from Newsome — is part of the broader effort to take the temperature of the fan base before making a decision. At some point, however, the Ravens need to look at the thermometer and make a diagnosis.

Report: Bisciotti resisting Kaepernick signing

AP

The Ravens literally are trying to have it both ways on Colin Kaepernick.

At a time when the nonsensical comments of linebacker Ray Lewis seem to have the same purpose as the team’s apparent effort to find middle ground on one of the most polarizing issues in sports, the Ravens reportedly are, and aren’t, interested in signing quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Diana Russini of ESPN, who spent Tuesday at Ravens practice and interviewed coach John Harbaugh on camera, reports (citing “sources”) that Harbaugh and G.M. Ozzie Newsome want to sign Kaepernick, but that they “have met resistance” from owner Steve Bisciotti.

The Ravens have not responded to a request for comment from PFT on the report, which may or may not close the book on the team adding Kaepernick.

It also may or may not frustrate Bisciotti, who emerges as either the good cop or the bad cop in this scenario, depending on one’s perspective. Regardless of how he’s perceived, Bisciotti may not be happy that someone leaked his role in keeping Kaepernick from joining the team, and it could make for awkward times in Baltimore this season, especially if for the third straight year the Ravens fail to make it to the playoffs.

Ray Lewis advises Colin Kaepernick to do, well, something

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The Ravens surely meant well when they embarked on a slow-motion, public deliberation regarding whether to sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The process nevertheless has become farcical at times, with unreasonable fear of the reaction to signing him causing paralysis by analysis, ultimately inviting anyone and everyone with an opinion on the matter to contact the organization and make their views known.

Adding to the confusion has been the team’s injection of former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis into the process. Presumably done in the hopes that the Lewis imprimatur would make it easier to get reluctant Ravens fans to accept Kaepernick, the team overlooked the possibility that Lewis would choose to talk publicly about Kaepernick — and that Lewis would say things that don’t really make a whole lot of sense.

It’s the latest example of Lewis mistaking charm, charisma, cadence, and inflection for substance. That habit of saying in a compelling way words that when transcribed send a rambling, unclear message marred his career at ESPN, and it has now reared its head twice this week.

During a Monday appearance on FS1, Lewis and Shannon Sharpe engaged in a debate that featured both men speaking but only one of them actually saying anything. On Tuesday, Lewis separately tried make his point without being constantly pummeled against the ropes, in a video that he recorded in his car and posted on Twitter.

I’ve now listened to it three times (the video appears below), and I’m not sure what Ray’s point is. The broader goal, apparently, was to talk his way out of the criticism he has absorbed for whatever he was trying to say when discussing the issue on FS1. But when typing up and looking at the actual words he uttered in the new video, I don’t know what he was trying to say.

“If they really wanna help you, they’ll pray for you, brother,” Lewis says at one point. “They’ll lead you the right way and stop encouraging you to be caught up in some of this nonsense. The battles you are fighting, brother, people way before has been fighting these for many, many, many years.”

What nonsense is Lewis referring to? Given that some people think everything Kaepernick did last season is nonsense, precision is crtical. What does Ray Lewis specifically contend to be the “nonsense” in which Kaepernick was caught up?

Lewis ultimately offers this advice to Kaepernick: “The football field is our sanctuary. If you do nothing else, young man, get back on the football field and let your play speak for itself. And what you do off the field, don’t let too many people know, because they’re gonna judge you anyway. No matter what you do. No matter if it’s good or bad.”

Obviously, Kaepernick can’t get back onto the football field until someone offers him a job. The notion that he should, once he’s playing again, keep his non-football interests a secret is confusing, at best.

Plenty of players have issues and causes and foundations that they support in their spare time. The fact that the players have the platform of pro sports gives those issues and causes and foundations even more exposure. With Kaepernick committed to not using the sidelines as a platform for demonstration in 2017, why should he also take his off-field efforts to improve society underground?

On an issue where nearly everyone has a strong view at either end of the spectrum, Ray Lewis seems to be the one person who is trying to have it both ways, supporting Kaepernick while simultaneously wagging a finger at him, apparently in the hopes of pleasing everyone and/or offending no one.

Ray’s words are actually a microcosm of the team’s effort to decide what to do about Kaepernick, creating a conflicting, contradictory stew of comments and views and observations that careen around the room and never reach a conclusion. The problem is that, for both Lewis and the Ravens, this clumsy effort to please everyone and/or offend no one eventually going to please no one and/or offend everyone.

John Harbaugh says there’s nothing new on Ravens’ QB situation

AP

Will the Ravens add Colin Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III while Joe Flacco recovers from a back injury? Coach John Harbaugh has been asked the question several times in the last week, and he says there’s not much more to say about it.

“There’s really nothing new on that quarterback situation,” Harbaugh said today. “Nothing’s changed. It’s right where it was.”

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti mentioned both Kaepernick and Griffin as players the Ravens had discussed internally, and Harbaugh says Bisciotti deserves credit for being transparent about the Ravens’ thought process.

“There’s really no update on that. I thought what he said was very honest, forthcoming and genuine comments that he made which I think you always respect from Steve. He does a great job with that and I think that’s what our fans should appreciate about him,” Harbaugh said.

Ultimately, Harbaugh said, every free agent quarterback in football is a possibility in Baltimore.

“I would pay attention to every quarterback that isn’t signed,” Harbaugh said. “They’re all options for us right now.”

Unemployed quarterback No. 39 in merchandise sales

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The Top 50 Player Sales Report released on Tuesday by the NFL Players Association includes 49 players who currently are employed by NFL teams. The unemployed player, a former 49er, comes in at No. 39.

Yes, the man who had the 17th highest-selling jersey in May 2017 finished at No. 39 from May 1 through July 31 in all merchandise sales. Which is impressive, given that there likely wasn’t much merchandise manufactured bearing Colin Kaepernick’s name or likeness, given that he hasn’t been a member of an NFL team since early March.

Kaepernick finished higher than players like Cardinals running back David Johnson (No. 42), Saints running back Adrian Peterson (No. 45), Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins (No. 48), and Cardinal receiver Larry Fitzgerald (No. 49).

Jersey sales likely had a lot to do with that figure. After Kaepernick’s status as No. 17 on the May 2017 list became a news item, the league-owned online shop didn’t update the page to reflect jersey sales for June 2017. And, perhaps, all that that implies.

The figures more than imply another message: Whoever signs him will be selling plenty of jerseys bearing his name an number over new colors and logos.

Ravens players say they’d welcome Colin Kaepernick

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At a time when the Ravens are taking the temperature of fans and sponsors to determine their reaction to the potential acquisition of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, it’s fairly clear that the locker room would have no problem with it.

“Hell yeah, if he’s going to help us win,” veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs recently told ESPN. “We have no issues. Not in the locker room. Hell yeah, we want him.”

Veteran defensive back Ladarius Webb agrees.

“I would love to have him to come challenge some other quarterbacks,” Webb said. “We all know Joe [Flacco] is our guy. We love [Ryan] Mallett. But yeah, we all would like competition around here to make everyone better.”

Veteran tight end Ben Watson believes that the composition of the team allows it to absorb a guy like Kaepernick.

“This locker room is one where everybody has a respect for other people when they don’t have the same point of view,” Watson said. “There are a lot of strong personalities. One thing I noticed before I got to the Ravens, I heard the Ravens organization would allow you to be yourself. That’s the culture that’s here.”

Of course, what some players will say publicly doesn’t necessarily mesh with what others believe privately. As Chris Simms pointed out on Monday’s PFT Live, he heard that some players and members of the coaching staff in San Francisco were unhappy with Kaepernick’s protests in 2016.

Since Kaepernick won’t be protesting in 2017, that shouldn’t matter. But a lot of things that should or shouldn’t matter in situations like this matter tremendously.

Ravens shuffle QBs, sign Josh Woodrum

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The Ravens have spent time talking about the possibility of signing Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick in recent days, but neither one of them was involved in a roster move on Monday that brought a new quarterback to the roster.

David Olson, who was signed last week after word of Joe Flacco’s back problem broke, has been waived and Josh Woodrum has been signed in a corresponding move. Ryan Mallett and Dustin Vaughan are also on the roster at quarterback.

Woodrum played college ball at Liberty and signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent last year. He was dropped after the rookie minicamp, spent time with the Colts before being cut in July and spent a few weeks on the Bears’ practice squad. Woodrum then moved onto the Bills’ offseason roster from January until he was dropped again in May.

That resume is one of a camp arm, which suggests that the team shares Flacco’s hope that a little rest will clear up what the quarterback described as stiffness in his back. If it looks like a longer absence is in the cards, the team may rethink the makeup of the depth chart.

Should Ravens sign Griffin or Kaepernick?

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The Baltimore Ravens apparently are thinking about adding a former starting quarterback to bolster a depth chart that consists of an injured starter, a backup who plays that way, a fungible third-stringer with a pair of first names, and a no-name No. 4 option from a no-name team in a no-name league.

Owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged on Sunday that his team is considering both Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III.

So which one should they sign? Given that the Ravens are crowd sourcing whether to add Kaepernick, it makes sense for the PFT Live question of the day to focus on that either/or proposition.

The show is on NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET. It’s currently on NBC Sports Radio.

Ravens owner admits to considering non-football factors with Kaepernick

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Sitting in the presence of a Commissioner who has said that football teams make decisions based only on winning football games, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti made it abundantly clear that his organization is considering non-football factors in connection with the possible addition of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It’s the closest any NFL executive has come to admitting that Kaepernick’s status is influenced by concerns regarding public and fan reaction to signing him.

The issue arose at a fan forum on Sunday, when someone asked Bisciotti whether he’s concerned that adding Kaepernick would hurt the team’s “brand.”

“We’ve very sensitive to it and we’re monitoring it, and we’re still, as [General Manager] Ozzie [Newsome] said, scrimmaging it,” Bisciotti said, via the team’s official website. “So pray for us.”

Bisciotti also addressed the inherent presumption within the question that signing someone who protested during the national anthem throughout 2016 would harm the team’s image.

“Quantify hurting the brand,” Bisciotti said. “I know that we’re going to upset some people, and I know that we’re going to make people happy that we stood up for somebody that has the right to do what he did. Non-violent protesting is something that we have all embraced. I don’t like the way he did it. Personally, I kind of liked it a lot when he went from sitting to kneeling. I don’t know, I’m Catholic, we spend a lot of time kneeling.”

Of course, with Kaepernick committed to standing for the anthem in 2017, the question isn’t whether having a guy who kneels for the anthem will harm the team’s brand. It’s whether having a guy who previously kneeled for the anthem will harm the team’s brand. In a league where dog fighters and drunk drivers and domestic abusers and alleged killers get second chances all the time, the guy who did nothing wrong can’t get a second chance that he shouldn’t need.

“Talk to your neighbors and your friends and your co-workers, because I think you’ll get the same sense that I got, which is every time I hear something negative, I hear something positive and sometimes it shocks me who it’s coming from,” Bisciotti said. “I hope we do what is best for the team and balance that with what’s best for the fans. Your opinions matter to us, and we couldn’t get a consensus on it in [this room] either.”

That’s an honest, frank, and candid assessment, provided by Bisciotti with Commissioner Roger Goodell in attendance. And it directly conflicts with Goodell’s past insistence that teams consider only football impact when deciding whether to sign football players.

“[A]ll [teams] want to get better,” Goodell said last month. “And if they see an opportunity to get better as a football team, they’re going to do it. They’re going to do whatever it takes to make their football team better. So those are football decisions. They’re made all the time. I believe that if a football team feels that Colin Kaepernick, or any other player, is going to improve that team, they’re going to do it.”

Bisciotti’s comments make it clear that this isn’t the case. For Bisciotti and the Ravens, it’s about determining (and balancing) fan reaction against football considerations — and by expressly inviting fans to chime in.

Consider that one in light of the team’s history. After linebacker Ray Lewis faced murder charges and then pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in connection with a pair of killings for which no one was ever brought to justice, the Ravens embraced him without giving it a second thought — and without considering or soliciting fan input.

Ditto for running back Ray Rice. Over a period of months, the team stubbornly defended Rice despite knowing that he’d knocked out his future wife in an Atlantic City elevator, staging along the way a shameful press conference during which the victim apologized for her roll in getting knocked out. Only after video evidence let everyone see with their eyes that which they should have been able to envision with their minds did the Ravens cut the cord on Rice.

While Lewis and Rice already were working for the team when they did cross the line regarding what the law allows, Kaepernick broke no laws and violated no rules. Instead, he exercised one of the fundamental rights that all Americans possess — and he has made it clear that he won’t be exercising that right in 2017.

(That said, the Ravens also embraced receiver Donte Stallworth after he killed a man while driving his car under the influence of alcohol. The Ravens signed him without engaging in a public debate regarding whether having him on the team would hurt the brand.)

However the Ravens resolve this one, it’s now abundantly clear that Kaepernick is unemployed in part for reasons unrelated to football. We hope the many fans and media members who insist otherwise will abandon the notion that Kaepernick isn’t on a team because he stinks.

Kaepernick won’t demonstrate at all during 2017 season

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In March, as free agency approached, a report emerged that Colin Kaepernick would stand for the national anthem in 2017. More than four months later, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that Kaepernick’s position hasn’t changed. Speaking more broadly, the source said Kaepernick will engage in no demonstrations during the 2017 season.

So with Kaepernick committed to standing for the anthem and not engaging in any other demonstrations this year, that should (in theory) reduce the animosity toward him. After all, plenty of other players engaged in demonstrations involving the anthem last year — and most if not all are gainfully employed.

Some would say that Kaepernick becomes the target of criticism because he led the way. Under that logic, shouldn’t he get credit for reversing course and leading the way toward full and complete respect and deference to the anthem?

We’ll see if any of it makes a difference. The problem is that the people who dislike him for what he did have made up their minds and refuse to change them. Meanwhile, plenty of guys who have done plenty of actually bad and/or illegal things get second, third, fourth chances.

Report: Fans rising up against possible Kaepernick signing in Baltimore

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If recent comments by Ravens coach John Harbaugh regarding the potential signing of quarterback Colin Kaepernick were meant to be a trial balloon, it apparently is made of lead.

Mike Silver of NFL Media reports that the Ravens “have heard from numerous fans regarding Kaepernick in the last couple of days, many staunchly opposed to his signing.”

It’s hardly a surprise, given that Giants co-owner John Mara already has provided all anti-Kaepernick fans with the blueprint for shouting down a potential Kaepernick signing.

“All my years being in the league, I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue,” Mara said in May. “If any of your players ever do that, we are never coming to another Giants game. It wasn’t one or two letters. It was a lot. It’s an emotional, emotional issue for a lot of people, moreso than any other issue I’ve run into.”

It’s impossible to know whether the fans from whom the Ravens have heard are only Ravens fans, or whether they are fans of other teams who simply want to see Kaepernick remain unemployed. Regardless, it’s no surprise that those who don’t want to see Kaepernick on an NFL team are trying to block it from happening at a time when it appears that it could.

Maybe those who support the employment of Kaepernick — you know, those who made his 49ers jersey the 17th highest-selling jersey in May — should start contacting the Ravens as well, regardless of whether they are Ravens fans.

Ultimately, the question becomes whether Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti will ignore the noise, positive and/or negative, and make a decision based solely on the objective of winning football games. After all, that’s what the Commissioner claims all teams do.

Ryan Mallett has INT meltdown at practice

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As John Harbaugh was leaving open the door for the Ravens to sign Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Mallett was melting down.

Mallett “looked awful” filling in for Joe Flacco at Friday’s practice, according to Jamison Hensley of ESPN. Per Hensley, Mallett threw at least five interceptions and nearly was picked off twice more.

On his final interception, Mallett threw a white towel in the air.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs yelled to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, “Hey, Marty, tell Mallett to throw to the guys wearing the purple jerseys [the offense].”

The Ravens re-signed Mallett to a one-year, $2 million deal in the offseason, but he hasn’t given Baltimore much confidence in him if Flacco’s back keeps him out longer than expected. That’s what the Ravens are weighing now as they contemplate whether to sign a quarterback.

“[Flacco] is day-to-day,” Harbaugh said. “Do we really need to make that move or not? That’s the decision that really has to be made. I think there are a lot of layers to it, just from a football standpoint.”

In five seasons, Mallett has a 3-5 record as a starter, completing 55 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 64.9 passer rating.

Even after adding camp arm, Ravens could still sign Kaepernick

AP

On Thursday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh suggested that the team could sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick. And then the Ravens signed a player no one has heard from a team no one has heard of in a league no one has heard of.

On Friday, the brother of Kaepernick’s former coach in San Francisco confirmed that the door remains open for the free agent.

It has to do with our need,” Harbaugh said Friday, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com. “Joe [Flacco] is day-to-day. Do we really need to make that move or not? That’s the decision that really has to be made. I think there are a lot of layers to it, just from a football standpoint.”

Although many would say Kaepernick would be an instant upgrade over backup Ryan Mallett, Harbaugh seems to be committed to the one-time (for not a very long time) Texans starter.

“We like Ryan Mallett as the backup quarterback and he fits the offense,” Harbaugh said. “You just got to figure all that stuff out and see what’s best for your team. . . . [Kaepernick’s] body of work speaks for itself. From what I understand, he tells me he’s in first-rate shape and he’s been throwing. We’ll see how it plays out.”

It’s safe to assume that Kaepernick wasn’t offered the “camp arm” gig because he wouldn’t have accepted a minimum-salary deal and bottom-of-roster status. But it’s unclear whether the offer was made, and whether it would have been accepted.